By Michael Kinney
For the second year in a row, Lincoln Riley said it was a difficult decision. That is how Oklahoma’s head coach a starting quarterback for the 2019 season.
Riley announced that graduate transfer Jalen Hurts would start the season opener Sept. 1 against Houston. But on Tuesday during a brief media session, Riley explained his decision.
“I just thought he was slightly better here as it went on,” Riley said of Hurts. “It was probably the closest one we’ve had since I’ve been in Oklahoma. Honestly, all three had days that they were the best quarterback.”
Hurts beat out redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai and freshman Spencer Rattler to earn the starting nod. Mordecai will be the backup while Rattler is the No. 3 quarterback.
“It was a good battle without a doubt,” Riley said. “Tanner Mordecai did a phenomenal job, made a lot of big plays during camp. Spencer Rattler showed early control and playmaking ability that’s pretty rare for someone his age. So you certainly get pretty excited about those two and the bright futures they both have for this 2019 team and beyond. But Jalen was just a little bit better.”
For many, Hurts was the favorite to win the starting job after he announced he was transferring from Alabama before the spring. With the Crimson Tide he started 28 games during the 2016-17 seasons.
Hurts also played in three College Football Playoff National Championships games. That includes winning the national title in 2017.
However, Riley says he didn’t give Hurts extra credit for the experience he possesses.
“It had nothing to do with experience. I told myself before it started that wasn’t going to matter,” Riley said. “I just based it purely on performance. I’m not going to sit here and break down, he was just a little bit ahead.”
Riley expressed many of the same sentiments last season when Kyler Murray beat out Austin Kendall for the starting job. Murray went on to win the Heisman and became the No. 1 overall pick for the Arizona Cardinals. Kendall ended up transferring to West Virginia at the end of the season.
Riley made to emphasize that it’s not over for Mordecai and Rattler. Either one of them could see time as a backup or get an unexpected start due to injuries.
Also, because of the transfer portal and the way quarterbacks are flocking to it when they do not start, Riley has to keep his backup signal-callers engaged.
“You’ve got to be ready,” Riley said. “I know we have three guys in there that no doubt can go play and play extremely well right now.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider